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Groundwater in the Tulare Lake Subbasin: Annual Report Update

The South Fork Kings GSA (SFKGSA), together with the four other GSAs in the Tulare Lake Subbasin, submitted the second Annual Report to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the April 1, 2021 deadline.  Dryer conditions in water year 2020 (Sept 2019 – Oct 2020) strained groundwater supplies across the Tulare Lake Subbasin, evidence that cooperation among groundwater users and strategic surface supply management will be critical to achieving sustainability by 2040.

The Annual Report includes an overview of groundwater conditions in the region including groundwater extraction, surface water supply available for groundwater recharge, total water use, change in groundwater storage, and a description of progress made toward implementing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) since the last Annual Report.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to submit annual reports to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on April 1 of every year.

The Tulare Lake Subbasin extracted 100,000 acre-feet (AF) less than the prior water year, but due to dryer conditions during Water Year 2020, the Subbasin also saw an overall decrease of 25,706 AF in groundwater storage as observed in this year’s Annual Report.  As we review the Annual Report and consider its implications as we enter another dry water year, SFKGSA will continue to implement innovative projects that will lead to a sustainable, resilient, and steadfast supply of groundwater for the region.

Here are a few SFKGSA highlights from the Tulare Lake Subbasin’s 2020 Annual Report:

SFKGSA participated in discussions with the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint to increase water supplies to the area.

Based on several wells being destroyed or inaccessible, SFKGSA worked with local landowners to modify the groundwater monitoring network. Access agreements were obtained for the modified network to ensure its long-term availability.

SFKGSA applied for and was awarded a grant from the California Resilience Challenge to implement an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Pilot Test. Click HERE to learn more about this supply enhancement program and the progress made thus far.

SFKGSA participated in coordination meetings between the Kaweah and Tulare Lake Subbasins. The purpose of the meetings was to identify issues, discuss boundary conditions, and share data across the region. These meetings are expected to continue to help provide common solutions to regional issues. SFKGSA will continue to engage with neighboring subbasins and GSAs to promote inter-basin coordination.

Click HERE to read full Annual Report.

To receive updates on these projects and more, groundwater conditions, and other ways to get involved with the work SFKGSA is doing, sign up for our E-Updates and visit our website at southforkkings.org.

Important considerations for Fiscal Year 2022

Fiscal Year 2022 Budget will be presented at April board meeting

A meeting of the Finance Committee will take place before South Fork Kings GSA’s next Board meeting to review the GSA’s 2022 budget. A draft budget will be discussed at the April 15th board meeting and should be finalized and considered for approval at the June 17th board meeting.

Items to consider in preparation of the 2022 budget include costs associated with responding to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) comments on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and a potential Prop 218 election.  

In 2020, South Fork Kings GSA adopted the Tulare Lake Subbasin GSP and submitted it to DWR. DWR is now in the process of commenting on GSPs across the state and will complete their reviews by January 2022. South Fork Kings will need to set aside funding dedicated to responding to DWR when the comments are received.

Proposition 218 is a Constitutional Initiative approved by the voters of California in November 1996. It requires new or increased fees and assessments be approved by affected landowners. In 2018, South Fork Kings GSA landowners voted in favor of a $9.80 per acre assessment to cover the costs associated with implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The assessment was favored by 74% of received votes. Each year, the South Fork Kings GSA Board was to set a rate not to exceed the $9.80/acre maximum for the five-year lifespan of the assessment. All landowners within the boundaries of the South Fork Kings GSA, excluding those residing in the City of Lemoore, have been assessed the rate via Kings County tax rolls since fiscal year 2018-19. 

The Prop 218 assessment that is in place for SFKGSA is set to lapse in 2023. If the Board decides that another Prop 218 election is necessary, holding an election will need to be accounted for in the 2022 SFKGSA budget.

Groundwater monitoring: What is the best program for South Fork Kings GSA?

Discussion ensued at South Fork Kings GSA’s March Board meeting around the best groundwater monitoring program to carry out in the agency. Most GSAs in the Tulare Lake Subbasin are partnering with Land IQ to collect data on cropping patterns and evapotranspiration (ET) measurements. El Rico is focusing on using data collected through well metering.

The South Fork Kings GSA’s technical consultant, Amer Hussain, Geosyntec, encouraged the Board to move forward on a plan for collecting groundwater data in the GSA. Hussain shared that Geosyntec will provide details about the success of approaches other GSAs have used to help the agency determine their next steps.

ASR Pilot Test set for early April and more grant funding on its way

South Fork Kings GSA is utilizing California Resiliency Grant funding to carry out an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) pilot test.

ASR is an innovative groundwater management method used to inject water for underground storage to be withdrawn later when surface water is limited, especially during periods of drought.

A contractor has conducted necessary improvements on well heads for the project to move forward. On Wednesday, March 31st, an aquifer pump test will be carried out. This test will last about a day and involves running a pump at different speeds and determining the sustainable rate of extraction that can be maintained. A limited constant flow test will also be performed to evaluate water levels. Any water that is extracted over the course of this test will be sent to the Lemoore Canal system.

This pump test will help determine what aquifer parameters are necessary to finalize the ASR pilot test. After these steps are completed, the ASR Pilot Test is projected to be carried out in early April.

SFKGSA is in the process of drafting a report update on the ASR Pilot Test and grant funding, and once the report is submitted, the GSA will be able to receive the second half of the California Resiliency Grant. The second half of the grant totals $100,000 and will provide necessary funding to complete the ASR Pilot Test. Grants such as this one allow SFKGSA to take important steps toward achieving sustainability goals in the region and securing groundwater for generations to come.

Tulare Lake Subbasin Annual Report to the State in progress

Following the adoption of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to submit annual reports to the California Department of Water Resources on April 1st of every year.

The Annual Report serves to inform and update both the State and stakeholders on groundwater conditions and sustainability progress in the entire Tulare Lake Subbasin. GSA managers in the Tulare Lake Subbasin are coordinating to ensure important data is included in this year’s Annual Report. The Report will include information from the Tulare Lake Subbasin’s five GSA’s monitoring networks, data on groundwater extraction, surface water supply, total water use, water quality, and changes in groundwater storage. View last year’s report here.

You can also explore the Department of Water Resource’s SGMA portal here. This portal allows local agencies and GSAs to submit, modify, and view the information required by SGMA, and allows the public to view submitted information and provide comments when applicable.

Frank Gornick appointed to represent City of Lemoore on Board of Directors

Frank Gornick, City of Lemoore Council member, joined the SFKGSA Board of Directors filling Seat 1.

In 2019, Gornick was honored by the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce as the city’s Citizen of the Year for his service as the Chancellor of the West Hills College District. According to The Leader, “Gornick’s leadership transformed the local district.” SFKGSA is honored and excited to welcome Director Gornick to the Board.

At the January 21, 2021 Board meeting, Director Gornick was nominated and appointed as the Secretary of the Board. Click HERE to learn more about the SFKGSA Board of Directors.

Progress made on Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) pilot test

Since approved to conduct an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) test in November, the South Fork Kings GSA has made substantial progress to pilot the high priority project.

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) is an innovative groundwater management method used in many parts of the United States to inject water for underground storage to be withdrawn later when surface water is limited, especially during periods of drought. The South Fork Kings GSA included ASR in its Groundwater Sustainability Plan as a high priority among the portfolio of projects to bring groundwater supplies into balance and received a grant to test the concept locally.

To date, the South Fork Kings GSA purchased transducers and hired a contractor to modify wells for the test. An aquifer pump test is scheduled for early February to determine key parameters for this project. Lemoore Canal Company has agreed to provide up to 75 acre-feet of water for the pilot test which will consist of three main phases. Water will be injected for a three-month period, stored for two months, and then taken out and used on surrounding fields.

The ASR Pilot Test is funded by the Climate Resilience Grant, a grant that was awarded by the Bay Area Council Foundation in June 2020 to help local communities across California strengthen their resilience to climate change. Read more about how SFKGSA obtained this $200,000 grant here.


Tulare Lake Subbasin will submit grant application for recharge projects in the region

Preparations are being made to apply for round one of the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) SGMA Implementation Grant, available to critically overdrafted subbasins. South Fork Kings GSA will work to submit a letter of support on the Tulare Lake Subbasin’s grant funding application for recharge projects that bring basin-wide benefits.

The Subbasin is currently considering which projects in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, a joint document outlining sustainability in the Tulare Lake Subbasin, to submit for funding. Groundwater recharge projects under consideration are outside of the South Fork Kings GSA but bring a benefit by meeting subbasin-wide sustainability objectives. Groundwater recharge is a primary tactic for improving groundwater conditions by which extra surface water, rainfall and snowmelt, is captured to sink below the soil into the groundwater aquifer.

The SGMA Implementation Grant is funded by Proposition 68, with the first round providing $26 million for critically overdrafted subbasins. The Subbasin has not yet determined its funding request amount. The maximum award is $5 million, and minimum is $2 million.  

Another $77 million will be available in round 2 for medium-priority, high-priority, and critically overdrafted subbasins. The South Fork Kings GSA is in the Tulare Lake Subbasin, designated under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to be critically overdrafted.

Groundwater Data Protection Policy adopted unanimously following committee and public review process

The Groundwater Data Protection Policy was adopted unanimously by the South Fork Kings GSA Board at their December 3, 2020 meeting. The draft was available for a 30-day public comment period beginning October 19 and ending November 18 and was revised under the direction of the Policy Committee after receiving one comment.

The policy outlines the South Fork Kings GSA’s duties and obligations in the process of acquiring data from landowners within its service area, with intent to keep any data collected private to the fullest extent allowed by the law. The South Fork Kings GSA will use publicly available information to learn about groundwater wells and pumping data, while working to engage in cooperative relationships with landowners to gather critical data for successful groundwater management.

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